For us non-dinner-planners, the benefits of a well-stocked pantry can’t be over-emphasized. It makes throw-dinner-together-at-the-last-minute doable. It also makes recycling leftovers possible, if not easy! And since I consider myself a non-dinner-planner (even though I know planning is so very important) the very least I can do is stock my pantry, so I am prepared. Sometimes I do overstock, but that’s okay. I have pounds and pounds of quinoa in Costco-sized bags. I know one day I will find a need and use it.
So last week (okay, every week), I had a huge pan of roast chicken pieces left over from Shabbat. By Tuesday I was thinking, “I can’t believe I am going to have to throw out an entire pan of chicken.” How come, no matter how much I try to calculate exactly what I need, there is always a pan left over? And, there is no way anyone would eat that. I’ll be honest and admit no one would have eaten it Sunday night either. (Except that I would have… ’cuz I’m the mom.)
What to do, what to do? Freezing it for the next Shabbat was not even an option, because defrosted leftover food is much, much worse than plain leftover food; i.e., it will not get eaten. I tried to think of a way to repurpose, a/k/a disguise the chicken, so that the family would eat it. If it looked different, no one would be the wiser. I skinned, deboned and cut it into chunks, or whatever pieces I could salvage. Then I considered a classic: chicken pot pie. But honestly, at that point even that felt like too much work. (Don’t worry. I will still give you my take on the chicken pot pie in the future!)
I opened the pantry and saw my quinoa—lots and lots of quinoa. And, I reminded myself, it is currently on the top-10 list of superfoods! I opened the freezer and saw my ever-present bag of mixed veggies (corn, peas, carrots, string beans). Aha! Almost too easy. So in a large pan I sautéed an onion, threw in a frozen garlic cube, added quinoa, water, and simmered until the quinoa was tender. Then I added the frozen veggies and cut-up chicken. The seasoning already on the chicken gave it just enough flavor. I gave it a stir, just as the kids arrived home. “Is dinner ready?” they ask, hopefully. I beam, and say “Yes, of course!” Once again, the Dinner Lady pulls it out of the pot.
Quinoa with Chicken and Vegetables
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic (I used frozen cubes)
2 C. quinoa (rinsed and drained)
3¾ C. water (or broth from leftover soup)
4 C. diced or shredded cooked chicken (skinned and deboned)
2 C. frozen mixed vegetables
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hot sauce (optional)
Saute the onion until softened. Add garlic and stir for a minute. Add quinoa, and stir together with onion and garlic for a minute, until heated through. Add water and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to simmer for 10–12 minutes. I don’t like quinoa when it’s mushy, so taste it at this point and see if it is to your liking. If it’s too dry, you may want to add a little more water. Add vegetables and chicken, and heat through. Season as desired with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Enjoy!
By Rachel Berger